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Lauren Munro

Cairns

English 2 Honors

12 December 2016

Igbo Belief of Justice

The O.J. Simpson murder case of 1995 is widely known for Simpson's lack of

punishment for his actions. Later in 2008, Simpson was found guilty of robbery and sentenced to

33 years in prison. Many would agree that Simpson was served the punishment he deserves. Igbo

culture believes that "there is a fundamental justice in the universe and nothing so terrible can

happen to a person for which he is not somehow responsible,(Achebe 163). In the novel Things

Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Okonkwo's story aligns with the Igbo sense of universal justice

through the way Okonkwo escapes discipline for his violent actions and later receives

punishment for occurrences he has no control over.

Okonkwo's story aligns with the Igbo belief of universal justice by highlighting his

unpunished actions. During the Week of Peace, Okonkwo beat his first wife and receives

minimal consequence for his actions when the priest says, "'You will bring to the shrine of Ani

tomorrow one she-goat, one hen, a length of cloth and a hundred cowries.' He rose and left the

hut. Okonkwo did as the priest said... Inwardly, he was repentant. But he was not the man to go

about telling his neighbors that he was in error," (Achebe 35-36). At this point in the novel,

Achebe highlights how even Okonkwo's most heinous actions go nearly unpunished so the

readers can see the offenses behind his doings and the lack of penalty which he deserves.

Okonkwo's small repercussions for his actions epitomize cultural Igbo beliefs by drawing
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attention to the shortage of justice Okonkwo first receives. When Okonkwo kills Ikemefuna, he

is, "Dazed with fear, Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being

thought weak...Okonkwo did not taste any food for two days after the death of

Ikemefuna," (Achebe 66). Out of fear of appearing weak to his tribe, Okonkwo kills Ikemefuna

and receives no punishment for doing so. Achebe highlights Okonkwo getting away with such a

terrible crime to illustrate to readers his series of unpunished wrongdoings and how it aligns with

the Igbo ideology. Okonkwo's story displays the Igbo belief of universal justice through his

absence of immediate justice for his actions.

Okonkwo later receives justice for his actions from occurrences he was not responsible

for, depicting the Igbo belief of justice. When Okonkwo kills the boy at the funeral by accident,

he receives his punishment, The crime was of two kinds, male and female. Okonkwo had

committed the female, because it had been inadvertent. He could return to the clan after seven

years," (Achebe 129). When Okonkwo kills the boy without intention, he is sent to exile for 7

years. Okonkwo's extreme punishment for his accident illustrates Achebe's alignment of the Igbo

belief of fundamental justice to Okonkwo's actions. Although Okonkwo did not receive any

repercussions for his previous actions, readers now see his actions and his punishments begin to

balance, allowing for a better sense of the Igbo ideology of justice. At the end of the story when

Okonkwo can no longer withstand the colonization of his land by the White Men, the white men

search for him after he kills the messenger, Then they came to the tree from which Okonkwos

body was dangling, and they stopped dead," (Achebe 208). With the white men in his land and

his tribesmen converting to their ways, an occurrence he has no control over, Okonkwo cannot

tolerate being surrounded by the colonization of his land. He finds what his tribesmen are doing
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so weak that he would rather hang himself than give in to the conversion. Achebe exemplifies the

Igbo idea of justice through Okonkwo's suicide, which also leads to the story's idea of fate.

Okonkwo receives universal justice from the repercussions of actions which he is not responsible

for.

In Chinua Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo's story aligns with the Igbo sense

of universal justice through Okonkwo's unpunished crimes and the justice Okonkwo later

receives through punishment for occurrences he has no control over. Throughout the story, the

reader sees Okonkwo get away with terrible actions as well as receive punishment for things

which are not his fault. In the end, his crimes and repercussions balance out, tying back to the

Igbo ideology that "there is a fundamental justice in the universe and nothing so terrible can

happen to a person for which he is not somehow responsible,(Achebe 163). The Igbo belief and

example of it seen in this story teaches readers that in some way or another, one will always be

punished for their wrongdoings.


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Works Cited

Achebe, Chinua. "Chi in Igbo Cosmology." Young African Pioneer. A Young African Pioneer, 20

Mar. 2014. Web. 11 Dec. 2016.

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. London: Everyman's Library, 1992. Print.